PPP’s compassion, PNC’s Grinch – difference between Guyana’s main political parties

This week, just as Christmas is upon us, more than 2,000 sugar workers who lost their jobs in 2016/2017 at the Skeldon Sugar Factory received a relief package of $250,000 each. More than $600M was distributed to them. Their Government came to them, and provided a festive relief to the workers and their families, who have suffered from the ruthless treatment they received at the hands of the previous APNU/AFC Government. Sugar workers from all the closed estates are benefiting; some have already received their relief payments. This week also, Public Servants are receiving their back pay for the 7% pay increase the Government granted Public Servants for 2021. The salary increase given to Public Servants is retroactive to January 2021. It means that the December pay envelope will include the backpay. But pensioners are also benefiting from the increase. It is Christmas time, and these payments are helping thousands of families have a better holiday season.
The experiences of Guyanese families under the PPP are quite different from what families experienced under Granger’s APNU/AFC Government between 2015 and 2020. Just before Christmas in 2017, the Granger-led Government, with full and unconditional support of Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan, sent the workers home, closed the sugar estates, and threatened to not pay severance to the workers. Those workers had to struggle for their severance. Thousands of the workers had to resort to the court to force the APNU/AFC Government to pay out the severance. The PPP Government this Christmas, in contrast with the heartless treatment from Granger’s APNU/AFC, came with glad tidings. Every Christmas, for the longest time, we know in Guyana which political party brings glad tidings and which one is usually the Grinch. It has nothing to do with the parties’ colours; that is, the red of the PPP and the green of the PNC.
Even as the Irfaan Ali-led PPP Government is righting a wrong, more news of the uncaring behaviour of the previous President from APNU/AFC, David Granger, and his cadre of Grinch-like charlatans, have emerged into the public domain. The Auditor General has released his 2020 special audit on COVID-19 funding. That audit found that Granger and his APNU/AFC cabinet, which included Joe Harmon, who now wants to replace Granger as the PNC Leader, deprived thousands of Guyanese of financial assistance when they were weighed down by the COVID-19 shutdown between March and August 2020. One would recall that the then-illegal Government shut down the country on the pretext of COVID-19. While COVID-19 was a justifiable reason for the shutdown, the truth is that the Government shut down the country because they wanted to prevent and/or delay the recount of the votes. The shutdown was a convenient tool in their brazen attempt to rig the election results.
In the face of the stagnant economy, made worse by the combination of an illegal Government and COVID-19, and under pressure from the public to do something to help people, the then-illegal President Granger announced a relief programme consisting of cash and hampers. But people had to apply and demonstrate need. More than 25,000 Guyanese applied for assistance. The Government declared eligibility for more than 11,000 of the applicants to receive cash and hampers valuing between $25,000 and $32,000. It was clearly another scam. More than 9,000 of those persons who were declared eligible never got the relief package. The APNU/AFC Government, during that time, was too busy trying to rig an election in front of the whole world. This was one of the many examples of malfeasance in office in the five-year APNU/AFC regime. Contrast this irresponsible behaviour with that of the PPP Government. As soon as the PPP Government took office, they introduced compassionate relief initiatives. Among those initiatives was the $25,000 cash relief distribution to every household in Guyana. This relief distribution was led by President Ali himself.
The APNU/AFC Government, throughout their five years, at least one of which was illegal, declared a number of initiatives they claimed were for helping people; they never did any of it. They declared free university; it did not happen. They declared housing for everyone; they built a few core houses that no citizen wanted. They promised to double old-age pension in their first year, it did not happen. They promised sugar workers 20% annual pay increase; sugar workers got zero. They promised Public Servants hefty salary increases, at least 20% annually to more than double their salaries in one term, that did not happen, not even close; but the cabinet salary and benefits were more than doubled. Moses Nagamootoo, in justifying the doubling of cabinet salaries and benefits, told the Public Servants they must be patient and await their turn. After five years, the Public Servants were still waiting their turn.
Joe Harmon told the Public Servants the same. Now he wants to be Leader of the PNC. President Granger had the most absurd justification for doubling of cabinet’s salaries and benefits; he told the citizens that cabinet members must be richly remunerated, because that is the only way to stop them from being corrupt. Incidentally, when, mercifully, we ended the APNU/AFC catastrophe, the Granger-led APNU/AFC cabinet stood as the most corrupt one in Caricom’s history, far exceedingly even Burnham’s cabinet. When Granger told people he wanted to carry on Burnham’s legacy, he was not kidding. He actually tried outdoing Burnham.